5. November 2019

“Design digital reality together”

European 4.0 Transformation Center Member Companies talk about their experience at RWTH Aachen Campus

In the course of the bi-annual E4TC Steering Meeting on September 25, 2019, four of its 18 Member Companies shared their experience collaborating at the European 4.0 Transformation Center.

Group photo in the atrium of the Cluster Smart Logistics:  European 4.0 Transformation Center Steering Meeting participants representing Member Companies, and joint research projects including e.GO, WZL and FIR, as well as E4TC.

E4TC: Mr. Huelsmann, Mr. Oerter, Mr. Doerr, Mr. Mansk, many thanks for your willingness to share with our readers what has been the experience of Atlas Copco, EPLAN, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Liebherr IT-Service. What excites you today at the European 4.0 Transformation Center?

Thomas Huelsmann (Atlas Copco): At the E4TC in Aachen, we get a holistic view of customer needs and technology drivers for digital transformation. Together with you and the other Member Companies, we jointly explore new techniques and trends. The interaction frequency and quality of the encounters is great, as this is a platform for cooperation and networking with market leaders of diverse markets, all under one roof. The Campus setting gives us access to the talent pool of RWTH Aachen University. And you have a combination of testing new technologies and use of results on two levels: From the Demonstration Factory Aachen where we jointly do exploratory projects, we have scaled into the e.GO electrical car series production.

Thomas Huelsmann (left), Managing Director GI at Atlas Copco, in creative discussion at the Demonstration Factory Aachen.


Atlas Copco Tools Central Europe

Atlas Copco Tools Central Europe GmbH is part of the Industrial Technique business area of the Atlas Copco Group. Being a pioneer in the field of Smart Connected Assembly, they supply intelligent solutions towards economic, secure and ergonomic manufacturing processes to a wide variety of industries. Committed to sustainable productivity.

Tim Oerter (EPLAN): One thing we really value is the communication and collaboration mentality on the RWTH Aachen Campus. We are outside our own environment, networking with different companies, as we just walk in to the offices to have cross-over conversations in this rich network of various technologies, which is really interesting for us. Here, every door is open to us. Second, we have several use cases here, especially with PTC, and these use cases are either presented together or we present them alone ourselves.  It is great when someone else talks positively about joint innovations instead of us presenting them.

Florian Doerr (HPE): In terms of Industry 4.0, we figured out that we need to grow our ecosystem and interact with different partners across technologies, industries and research institutes. It is very easy for us here, because we have this rich ecosystem RWTH Aachen Campus offers. Even though we do not have our own office here, it is very easy to connect by just walking over and to start joint agile efforts without much ado. For our projects, we can easily access production resources such as machinery and production lines. This is something that we use a lot to show our customers what we can bring to the table for Industry 4.0.  At the E4TC, there is continuous visitor traffic, which puts us on stage on a daily basis.

Wolfgang Mansk (Liebherr): E4TC is not just a platform, as it is much more to us. What excites us at Liebherr is the spirit of “Let’s design digital reality together”. Here in Aachen, we have open minded highly motivated scientific staff to work with and we are really pleased to work with them. The E4TC, embedded in the ecosystem RWTH Aachen Campus, offers us different opportunities for knowledge sharing with both University and industry partners. A big benefit is hands-on digitalization via demonstrators and design sprints. This environment allows to communicate the look and feel, and benefits of digital transformation using real use cases in a physical Demonstration Factory.  And then there is e.GO Mobile, as a real example for disruption.

Wolfgang Mansk (right), Area Manager PLM at Liebherr IT-Services, and Achim Rausenberger, Head of R&D at Lorch Welding Machines, reflect their e.GO Life test drives. 


Liebherr IT-Services

For more than 60 years, Liebherr stands for a large, continually developing range of sophisticated products and services. Exceptionally practical, seasoned and proven engineering as well as a consistently high quality levels ensure customer benefits in all product areas, which include Aerospace and Transportation Systems, Components, Construction Machines, Gear Cutting Technology and Automation, Maritime Cranes, Material Handling Technology, Mining Equipment, Mobile and Crawler Cranes, as well as Refrigeration and Freezing.

E4TC:  How do your own organizations benefit?

Huelsmann: We get a lot of ideas for project and new technology mixes due to the cooperation projects at the E4TC, it is a source of innovation also for our central R&D departments. Of course, we utilize the location here at the RWTH Aachen Campus for customer events and workshops. Employer branding and tapping into the talent pool for potential new employees is an additional opportunity.

Oerter: As the clear European market leader, EPLAN especially aims at strengthening our customer relationships. We can go for a more agile approach to innovation here, because the RWTH Aachen Campus and its visitor stream produce a lot of valid feedback to us. Here at the E4TC, we show our customers innovative use cases and get their candid opinion. And then, of course, we want to enter new business areas with new levels of experience. Our current core business is Engineering, which for our customers is only one of many work steps. Here on RWTH Aachen Campus, we try to learn more about those additional opportunities and respond with new business models and ideas in the future.

Tim Oerter, Project Manager at EPLAN, presents the digital twin for service instructions at a control cabinet in the Demonstration Factory Aachen.



EPLAN develops CAx, configuration and mechatronic solutions and advises companies in the optimization of their engineering processes. Standardised procedures, automated sequences and consistent workflows are key improvement levers. EPLAN provides custom concepts for system implementation, installation and smooth integration into the IT/PLM landscape – based on standard engineering solutions.

Doerr: For us, the E4TC is about showing a real-life industry 4.0 environment to our clients and partners. Especially, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence call for concrete applications to go beyond theoretical discussions and PowerPoint presentations. Such projects typically call for interaction and cooperation with various partners. Therefore, we seek to strengthen our awareness for viable solutions while at the same time expanding and developing our solutions portfolio with matching technologies. This is why we have intensified our engagement here significantly in the last 12 months.   We organize our own and joint events with other Member Companies.  Already our first joint project, the connected battery cell production line at the eLab, yielded a very nice way of talking about use cases in the field of Predictive Quality. Joint work at the eLab and with the research institute for electric mobility, PEM, brings us closer to the operational processes of the manufacturing industry.  At this year’s in-house fair, the HPE Discover More in Munich, Ernest Debets, VP IT & Digitalization at e.GO Mobile AG, will present a solution by PTC, Relimetrics, and HPE installed in the Industry 4.0 series production. More specifically, it is a digital solution for end of line vehicle quality testing, combining Video Analytics and Augmented Reality (AR) to improve efficiency.

Mansk:  For Liebherr, internal communication and experience sharing to facilitate synergies across our sites and divisions are much more important. There are many projects for digitalization and realtime-management of processes. We do not want to follow competitive benchmarks, but start early and lead instead. In order to arrive at a common denominator for these topics, E4TC’s unique physical and digital display helps a lot. We are a hands-on culture on all levels, so the Liebherr visitors come to Aachen from all hierarchy levels, from top managers to experts. They enjoy the possibility to get hands-on digitalization experience, which enables them to voice their ideas and requirements much more clearly. We had already seven major, and excited, delegations here. This paves the way for jointly planning tangible digitalization roadmaps and technology deep-dives in a variety of areas like workshops about the future of PLM and ERP in an Internet of Production enterprise architecture. My current personal favourite is the E4TC sprint on asset tracking, that has been a nice success story for us.

E4TC: Looking back and looking forward to the next years, what is your conclusion on your E4TC Membership?

Huelsmann: Atlas Copco sees a trend in the market that is based on Industry 4.0. Business models will be changing and we are looking for partnerships for new technologies and business models, e.g. subscription concepts. We hope that new partners will join the E4TC in order to broaden our experience and our interaction with other industries. We are going to bring in additional Atlas Copco product areas. So, we are planning to expand our technology footprint here in the E4TC.

Oerter: With our mechatronics project, we moved from showcase to use case and now to a marketable service. The idea was born 1.5 years ago here at the E4TC. We envision to offer such a service to our customers in the near future. Now is time for new use cases and to be more externally focused, leveraging our presence and what we achieved to a broader audience. I aspire to make the EPLAN presence at the E4TC the main place to be for us.

Doerr: HPE is having a very successful year here on RWTH Aachen Campus. For new members, it takes time to land and expand and get the company on board. Membership means a strategic relationship and presence, with low-hanging fruits, but not a six-month return-on-investment. We will continue to benefit from the synergies available, and we want to globalize the reach of these benefits in the world of HPE, because Germany has an excellent reputation for Industry 4.0. In the following months, for example, we will bring people not only from Germany, but also from France, the UK, Italy, the US, and Japan here for a visit and events. Our plan is to manage the asset here as if it was an HPE asset, like our innovation centers worldwide.

Florian Doerr, IoT & Data Analytics Lead Solution Architect at HPE, explains an Augmented Reality app for end of line quality checks at e.GO’s series production.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is a global technology leader developing smart solutions enabling their customers to collect, analyse data and use data – seamlessly integrated from the very edge of the network to the cloud. HPE helps customers to get business results faster, i.e. with the help of new business models, development of new customer and employee experiences as well as improved operative efficiency, now and for the future.

Mansk: For the future, we have several ideas. Liebherr’s Tower Cranes division is a founding member at the Center for Construction Robotics on RWTH Aachen Campus. We will do cross-discipline projects together with their partners on topics ranging “from machine to machine interaction” to “machine to building information modeling interaction”. We also want to enhance the digitalization of our factories and see what we can do there for smart connected operations. For example, we pursue an idea about a simple internal knowledge retrieval with the help of a chat bot based on artificial intelligence. We think this is a topic that can be realized here at the E4TC.

E4TC: Thank you very much for your inspiring inputs and insights.